Planted for Spring:
Tomatoes (from starts)
Cucumbers (from starts)
Patty Pan Squash (from starts)
Watermelon (from seed)
Butternut Squash (from seed)
Planted last Fall/Winter for Spring Harvest:
Herbs: Parsley, Sage, Thyme, Lemon Sorrel, Borage, Dill, Fennel, Chocolate Mint, Peppermint, Spearmint, Lemongrass,
Cover Crops: Hairy Vetch, Rye grass, Wheat, Oats, Austrian Peas
In the four 8×12 beds pictured above we are growing the following (from nearest to farthest): potatoes in straw, garlic and onions, a second round of winter veg and sunflowers for summer, tomatoes. There are various herbs and beneficial plants here are there as well.
Last year, I grew potatoes in soil amended with compost and it worked, I guess. After some reading and discussions with other gardeners I decided to experiment with growing potatoes in straw. I didn’t use hay because it’s contaminated with weed seeds. Straw is cleaner, free of weed seed, it’s also hollow which allows for better air circulation. The main benefit I hope will be ease of harvest. Digging through straw should be easier than digging through soil, right? I’m hoping it’s easy enough for the children to participate.
A close up of the onion and garlic bed. The onions will be ready for harvest next month and the garlic soon after, once the scapes spring up and we get to harvest and cook them. Scapes are the flower stalk sent up by the bulb and they taste like garlic flavored scallions. My understanding is that removing the scapes will help the bulb grow larger because the plant can focus its energy there instead of producing a flower. I plan to snap them off once they are just higher than the leaves so they are tender enough to use in salads, soups and scrambled eggs.
At one end of the garlic and onion bed we have a few dill plants. I made gallons of pickles last year, we still have a few jars left, with homegrown cucumbers and set out to grow our own dill this year. I plan to let the seed head form and harvest those, dry them out and use the seed pods in pickling. We’re no where close to having cucumbers ready for harvest so I’ll store them dill until later this summer.
In the next bed we have a second round of winter veg, like broccoli and kale. The winter was so warm that it took some plants an extra long time to produce, such as cabbage and fennel. I was so disappointed this winter in our weak broccoli harvest. I did grow fewer plants this year because I had trouble keeping up with 24 plants last year, although I so enjoyed getting to share with friends, it just wasn’t possible to consume all that broccoli and we didn’t have freezer space for it either. Perhaps if I had more plants growing this year we would have harvested more than one, yes one…just one, head of broccoli.
This was the one cabbage we harvested. It was large enough for two meals which was exciting. We simply chop it roughly and steam it, homegrown cabbage is sweet and flavorful. I planted half a dozen but only one survived the attack of cabbage lopers. I shoulda, woulda, coulda gotten out there to deal with the bugs but the garden wasn’t our first priority over the winter. Having less time to spend in the garden is why I decreased the growing space and the number of plants we put in the ground. I decreased the growing space with cover crops, plants that would keep the soil protected from weeds as well as provide food for the macro/micro-organisms living in the soil. I chose rye grass because it grows well in cold weather and has an expansive root system which breaks up and aerates the soil. I grew oats to eventually pull up and feed to the chickens. The hairy vetch is what blooms adorable purple flowers and it is a legume so it fixes nitrogen in the soil.
What we lost in broccoli, cabbage, brussel sprouts and kale we made up for in fennel!
The fennel got so large because I allowed them to stay in the garden long after they could have been harvested. Fennel (and dill) is a host plant for the monarch butterfly, which are endangered. We observed dozens of hungry caterpillars eating the fennel. At times it was obvious from one day to the next where large sections of the plant had gone missing! When I harvested the above plant I moved a handful of caterpillars to a different plant nearby.
The last raised bed is our tomato bed for the summer. I’m growing a dozen plants this year instead of 30 like last year. I only grew hairy vetch and austrian peas, two cover crops, in this bed over the winter because I plan to experiment with using them as a cover crop to decrease growing space and fix nitrogen as well as using them as a living mulch once the tomatoes are established. In theory, the cover crops will shade the soil keeping it cooler and helping to retain moisture throughout the hot summer months.
I planted wheat, oats and rye throughout the backyard to provide food for our chickens. They live in a chicken tractor that we move around the yard, they are our lawn service. Our flock of seven hens are such great little lawn mowers and on top of that, they provide us with nutritious eggs!
Every year I attempt to grow summer squash and most of the time I am able to harvest a few before the squash vine borer invades. I discovered patty pan squash last year at a farmers market so that’s what we’ve got growing in our garden this year. I have winter squash, butternut, going as well in a different area and for some reason those plants aren’t as affected by the borer. One day I’ll do some reading to find out why.
Fruit! Blueberries and blackberries. Our homegrown blueberries are really sweet! I wish we had a better harvest of them but I’ve only successfully kept one plant alive despite efforts to add additional bushes to the garden. Perhaps over time as our one bush matures, it will produce more. We should have an amazing blackberry harvest this year, the bushes growing along our fence are covered in blooms. I have a feeling that very few of them will make it inside the house, we’ll just eat them right off the bush. I’m looking forward to figs, kumquats and meyer lemons.
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